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IoT Aims to Track Free-Ranging Reindeer in Finland

Finnish reindeer herders are testing a LoRaWAN-based solution from Digita and Actility on several dozen alpha female reindeer, in order to track herds of thousands of animals and detect when they may be in danger from predators or vehicles.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 19, 2018

Reindeer herders, under the guidance of the Finnish Reindeer Herders Association (Paliskuntain yhdistys, or FRHA) are testing an Internet of Things (IoT)-based solution to monitor the location and well-being of their reindeer herds, and some individual animals, as they roam the tundra and forests of northern Finland this winter.

The herders are using the technology, provided by Digita, with low-range wide-area network (LoRaWAN) and GPS-enabled trackers on some reindeer, and Actility software to manage the location data and trigger alerts if a herd is determined to be at risk, such as if they suddenly start running, run long distances or even cease moving entirely. Mapping software company Mapitare Oy is providing high-resolution maps for use offline on mobile devices.

Reindeer in Finland are raised for meat, fur and antler products. They travel a wide area to graze in that country—up to 40 kilometers (24.9 miles) of wild territory within a single day, though the average daily travel is less than that. Because of this wide grazing range, it is impossible for herders to watch them all day, and so the animals sometimes can be difficult to locate. They can be vulnerable to wild animal attacks or simply wander out of the expected territory. For this reason, the FRHA reports, up to 10 percent of the animals' annual value can be lost each year. There are 300,000 reindeer and about 4,400 reindeer owners in Finland.

The FRHA began investigating a technology-based solution for tracking animals about a decade ago, and implemented a GPS-based system. Three years ago, it released a smartphone app known as Porokello (Finnish for "reindeer bell") that allowed drivers to indicate when they see a reindeer wandering near the road using their Smartphones.

The reindeer herders of Finland have used GPS- and GSM-enabled trackers that identified each animal's location and transmitted the data via a cellular connection. Such devices are commonly employed to monitor the locations of hunting dogs. However, these trackers could prove to be too bulky and expensive for wide use on reindeer. Instead, they were typically worn by just a few reindeer—approximately 70 to 100 animals altogether.

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